30 September 2008

It's a yabadabadoo time!


One saving grace about a possible McCain/Palin ticket is that after McCain passes away, Palin is sure to simplify things for our overburdened students. Instead of having to keep track of all those different ages and eras of the planet's history, students can just read the Biblical account of the flood and watch a few Flintstone episodes and be ready to pass any state test. The writers of the Bible were evidently quite a remarkable lot. They had pteradactyls and T-rexes running around them and were so unimpressed that they completely forgot to mention them!

After conducting a college band and watching Palin deliver a commencement address to a small group of home-schooled students in June 1997, Wasilla resident Philip Munger said, he asked the young mayor about her religious beliefs.

Palin told him that "dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time," Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said "she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks," recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska.

28 September 2008

Gotta make those rape victims pay!

The more I learn about this woman, the less I like her:

Recently reported by the Associated Press:

When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small town began billing sexual-assault victims for the cost of rape kits and forensic exams.

On the other hand:

When Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, he included provisions to make states ineligible for federal grant money if they charged rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies needed to conduct them. (Senator John McCain, Ms. Palin’s running mate, voted against Mr. Biden’s initiative, and his name has not been among the long list of co-sponsors each time the act has been renewed.)

And we're supposed to believe that women will all flock to the polls to vote for her because . . . she's a woman? This has got to be one of the most anti-woman candidates this country has ever had run for major office.


Factcheck.org has a rebuttal of the claims that I made in this post.

You've been left behind!

I couldn't make this up if I tried:

Youvebeenleftbehind.com offers users the ability to store e-mails and documents that will be sent to up to 63 e-mail addresses six days after the rapture has occurred. Users get up to 250 megabytes of storage space, 150 megabytes of it encrypted for sensitive information such as bank account numbers or eTrade passwords that can be accessed by those who remain on earth.

I'm a bit disapppointed. I was sure that heaven would have email services. Evidently you get golden streets but poor wireless coverage.

27 September 2008

Clever map

This is clever: a map with states renamed as countries with similar GDPs.

26 September 2008

Apologia

In recent years, a number of bloggers have questioned my credentials on foreign affairs, claiming that my posts are subreptitous doggerel of the vilest variety. I would like to point out to all of these devious detractors that I, as one of the fundamentals of this great nation, have oodles of experience with foreign affairs as a former resident of both Washington and California--states that border foreign countries. While in such close proximity to the external boundaries of our great nation, I personally and directly encountered people who lived next to people who had spoken with people who had been to foreign countries. And by GOD, if the country had been attacked by those mendacious Mexicans or pestilential Canucks, I would have been standing there smack adab on the front line while all the rest of you were sippin' your frosties in your local Walmart. With all these years of experience with international politickin, you should all feel lucky that I just blog. I could be running the entire country some day if I can just get some senile old presidential candidate lady to pick me.

25 September 2008

Well . . . uh . . . I'll get back to you . . .

I suddenly see why the McCain campaign has been keeping Palin under wraps. Katie Couric, unlike other journalists, actually conducted a real interview. What a fiasco! I hope Sarah didn't give up her Alaskan day job:



I guess there's a good reason for all the hemming and hawing:

Regulatory filings indicate that McCain campaign chief Rick Davis remains an officer with his lobbying firm.

Michael IsikoffNewsweek Web Exclusive
Sep 24, 2008

Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, has remained the treasurer and a corporate director of his lobbying firm this year, despite repeated statements by campaign officials that he had ended his relationship with the firm in 2006, according to corporate records.The McCain campaign this week criticized news stories disclosing that, since 2006, Davis's firm has been paid a $15,000-a-month consulting fee from Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage giant recently put under federal conservatorship. The stories, published Tuesday by NEWSWEEK, The New York Times and Roll Call, reported that the consulting fees continued until last month even though, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement, neither Davis nor anybody else at his firm did any substantial work for the payments.

The feeling of being robbed

The vitriol regarding the bail-out, in this little corner of the internets, has been caustic. Jodi over on I Cite recently weighed in:

It feels like we are being threatened. Pay up or else. Or else what? We lose our houses? Our jobs? Our life's savings? Hasn't that already happened to hundreds of thousands, even millions, of people in this economy? It reminds of what the executives at American Airlines pulled on their pilots: if you don't take a salary cut, the company will go down and you will be out of a job.Then the executives got bonuses. So now Wall Street says: give us more money or you we will all go down. When was the last time Wall Street spoke in terms of "we all"? Probably the Bear Stearns bailout. It doesn't have to be this way. It's an unpopular, lame duck president. It's a treasury secretary who used to be head of Goldman Sachs. There are millions speaking out against this too quick move. It's almost as if they want to take the money and run. No wonder it feels like we're being robbed.

I agree. Personally, I've already lost my money. Now I'll lose more in order to bail-out some "system" that screwed me over in the first place--a system that isn't going to be dismantled or fundamentally changed.

23 September 2008

I also have an empathy problem

La Popessa expresses a sentiment that seems to be pervasive once you step away from the Fox-inspired alternative reality. The Republicons have shown their true colors: they're perfectly willing to spend trillions (literally, trillions!) on the wealthiest class but scream about having to give anyone else a dime. I, like most of you, am deeply ANGERED at their complete disregard for the productive people who are losing their life savings to help someone buy an extra yacht.

From Make it Stop! Make it Stop!

Personally I think anyone who makes more than $100,000 a year is way overpaid. But I know I'm a minority here, and if someone can convince someone else to pay him or her many millions for doing ... well less work than someone who cleans offices during the week, then that's their problem. Except when they want to make it our problem. So Kudos to the Democrats for saying that in order to get their $700 billion bail out, Wall Street needs to agree to "meet appropriate standards for executive compensation." I mean really, just how much do the men and women who helped engineer (pushing the train metaphor a bit further) this problem think they should be paid for their stupidity, recklessness and greed?

At the very least these executives' paychecks should be garnished at a certain percentage, funds going to repay the people who have lost their retirement funds, or families trying to hold onto a home while paying mortgages for costs that are now higher than their home is worth. Of course Bush doesn't agree, saying that adding such pieces of accountability would "threaten small business owners and homeowners on Main Street." HELLO Mr. President - Where have you been? What is it that you really think is threatened now - Americans or your fundraising buddies on Wall Street? Don't tell me, Cliff and Amber are going to have to cut back on one of their Hampton houses now? The pain! The agony! How about a little less sympathy for the folks at the top of the hill during this avalanche, and a bit more for the folks down on the bottom who didn't have much to begin with and are now getting pummeled and beaten down to the ground.

The bail-out

I feel strongly that any bail-out package should include provisions that limit executive compensation of firms that benefit and include at least partial state ownership of the firms. Why in the world should tax payers put forth their money and get nothing in return? Why should current home owners who lost their entire life savings save firms with executives running off with millions in compensation and pension packages for life?
    Cul lists 10 demands regarding the bail-out:

  1. No bailouts without conditions and reciprocity in the form of stock warrants.
  2. No more lobbying for any company that is bailed out.
  3. No golden parachutes or get-out-of-jail-free cards for guilty executives.
  4. No bailouts without public hearings.
  5. Reduce the moral hazard in U.S. mortgage markets by introducing covered bonds for the majority of mortgage products, as is done in Western Europe. That gives institutions that finance mortgages an incentive to be prudent, because they cannot just unload them and wipe their hands clean of the liability, but are instead on the hook if the homeowner defaults.
  6. Maintain neighborhood stability and housing security by passing a law with a sunset clause allowing below-median-value homeowners facing foreclosure the right to "rent to own" their homes at fair market value rates.
  7. Avoid future housing bubbles by removing implicit government guarantees for new mortgages that exceed thresholds of greater than 15 to 20 times the annual fair market rent value of the home.
  8. Make the Federal Reserve a Cabinet position, so it is accountable to Congress, as well as make sure all Federal Reserve Bank presidents are appointed by the president and answerable to Congress.
  9. Reduce conflicts of interest by taking away power for auditor and rating agency selection from companies and placing it in the hands of the SEC to be administered on random assignment.
  10. Implement a securities speculation tax, starting with derivatives, to deter casino-style capitalism.

Watch the McCain vs. McCain debate

Recently, the two McCains continued to throw barbs at each other in their race for the White House:

McCain #1: "The fundamentals of the economy are strong!"

McCain #2: "We are in the most serious crisis since World War II."

Stay tuned. By election day, we may discover who won the debate! (Or may not.)

22 September 2008

End of an era?

Is the honeymoon over?

Two intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media said two U.S. helicopters crossed one mile into Pakistan in the Alwara Mandi area in North Waziristan on Sunday. Citing informants in the field, they said Pakistani troops and tribesmen responded with small arms fire, but it was not clear whether it was aimed at the choppers or just warning shots.

Fundamentally right on

Obama gets some good jabs in at a time when McCain's "the fundamentals are good" mantra rings increasingly hollow:

21 September 2008

Neanderthals

National Geographic has an excellent article on the Neanderthals in the October 2008 issue. I keep hoping that they'll run across a band of Neanderthals in some Tibetan valley who somehow survived to the present.

17 September 2008

Politics American style: Going south fast

I've always been of the humble opinion that Spain should separate from Europe and float on over to join its brethren in South America. It would make things a lot easier for us yanks, after all. How can anyone expect us to keep track of all them Spanish speakers when they live in diffrunt kontinunts. Evidently, I'm not the only gringo to have thunk such thoughts. Just such a reallignment of continental plates is apparently in the works if McCain becomes president:

INTERVIEWER: Senator finally, let’s talk about Spain. If elected president would you be willing to invite President Jose Rodriguez Louis Zapatero to the White House, to meet with you?

McCAIN: I would be willing to meet with those leaders who are friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion. And by the way President Calderone of Mexico is fighting a very, very tough fight against the drug cartels. I’m glad we are now working with the Mexican government on the Merida Plan, and I intend to move forward with relations and invite as many of them as I can, of those leaders to the White House.

INTERVIEWER: Would that invitation be extended to the Zapatero government? To the president himself?

McCAIN: Uh, I don’t, I, ya know, I, honestly, I have to look at the situations and the relations and the priorities. But I can assure you, I will establish closer relations with our friends and I will stand up to those who want to do harm to the United States of America.

INTERVIEWER: So you have to wait and see. If he’s willing to meet with you, would you be able to do it? In the White House?

McCAIN: Well, again, I don’t — All I can tell you is I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that’s judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America and the entire region.

INTERVIEWER: OK, what about Europe? I’m talking about the president of Spain.

McCAIN: What about me what?

INTERVIEWER: OK. Are you willing to meet with him if you are elected president?

McCAIN: I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy and freedom, and I will stand up to those who are not.

Maybe McCain will try to get the Panamanians to agree to the merger. The could use some extra land.

How old is your brain?

I've got a 28-year-old brain! No wonder everyone keeps calling me immature. Take the test and tell me how you do.

The great implosion

Jim Kunstler must have one of those I-told-you-so smirks on his face right about now. The following are excerpts from a long insightful blog post titled A Ripe Moment:

We should be frightened by the political implications of this Great Implosion of presumed wealth. Some group of somebodies will have to clean up this mess. Moving toward a major election, it is hard to imagine the American people giving the clean-up task to the very group that created the mess -- no matter how many cute little faces Sarah Palin can make on TV. Both parties have so far managed to ignore the gathering crisis of banking and money, but they can't ignore the sequoia trees crashing down around their ankles and shaking the earth they stand on.

At issue now will be the question of legitimacy in all its human social dimensions. Is our money legitimate? Is the authority of our elected officials legitimate? Are our values and ideas legitimate? These are the things that will determine what kind of future we find ourselves in.

Gritn our teeth and lisnin

Alison has written a delightful little ode to Palin over on Feministing.

16 September 2008

What's the sound of no hands clapping?

As the stock market hits the biggest downturn since 9/11, the housing market reduces American private wealth the greatest amount since the Great Depression, the government bail-outs reach the highest amount ever, and the cost of the 100-year war sky-rocket, what does it mean when McCain describes the U.S. economy as "fundamentally sound"? What does it take for the economy to be fundamentally "unsound"? Do we need to wait until people are in supermarket lines with wheelbarrows full of money? And this is the man who will lead the nation? Say it ain't so-o-o-o!

15 September 2008

Let it be, let it be . . .

South by Southwest has a good post on the recent economic morass titled "Where were the regulators?"

13 September 2008

The integrity-challenged

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the McCain smear campaign of outright lies will backfire. In the age of the Internet when it's relatively easy to check up on facts and read old transcripts, it's amazing that anyone would even try such nonsense. I was impressed watching Obama talking about Palin on 60 Minutes. He was extremely generous and above the fray . . . or should I say "presidential" . . . as he gave her several compliments. I personally don't think we should focus too much on character as this leads back into the days of monarchic rule when the king faced south and through his divine charisma made the crops to grow and the sheep to copulate, but for those who do want to base their vote solely on character, I don't see how they can vote for McCain.

The Palin image, the Palin mindset

This election, being no different from the previous, will be largely decided by people's gut feeling about the personae of those running. Americans want to elect a king (or a queen) after all in their unconscious desire to be done with this burden of democracy once and for all. As a cultural image, Palin ads some interesting spice to the McCain ticket as both soccer mom and wild west cowboy (not of the cocaine sniffin' Yale variety). While she's certainly "authentic" in this respect, I think she represents a very reprehensible sort of Westerner. As someone who has probably hiked more of the West and done more "authentic" activities in the backcountry than most, I find her views toward the stewardship of land and resources to be both shallow and elitist.

Take the example of her support for the aerial killing of animals from planes. Personally, I find it disturbing that I could be out fishing or camping in some area and have some rich cat shooting down from above me. The idea that shooting animals from planes is a "sport" is ridiculous. If the goal is to kill as many wild animals as possible, why not hook up machine guns to the front of the plane and gun the animals down in an even more efficient manner.

The truth is, this is the sort of "sport" meant for the super rich who can't be bothered to walk more than a 100 yards after leaving their fancy Alaskan hotel. If we extrapolate from her positions on these local Alaskan issues, we can predict that Palin as president would be another Bush, doing all she can to look out for the people "who really matter."

12 September 2008

The electoral map

According to my own calculation of the electoral votes (giving Obama 273 to McCain's 265), the election could now go either way depending on how Ohio and Pennsylvania vote. If McCain fails to take both states or if the two candidates split the states and Obama takes Colorada, McCain will probably lose.

This is one election where the presidential debates could make a difference. I get the feeling that the White House is doing all it can to get out in front of the issues that Obama's been pushing. We're suddenly hearing about shifts in troop force to Afghanistan, a drawdown in troops, and a withdrawal deadline--moves that Bush and McCain have opposed.

10 September 2008

Warpigs in lipstick

The McCain camp's latest outrage about Obama's supposedly "sexist" comment (using the pig with lipstick metaphor) makes one wonder how low they can go. McCain says it smears Palin. Since the comment occurred in a discussion of McCain and Bush, I fail to see how it's an anti-feminist remark. Johnny and George have evidently secretly undergone a sex-change but have failed to tell us about it. Who knows? Maybe we'll end up with the first trans-gendered president in a few months. Or maybe the metaphor smears pigs. Or perhaps it's offensive to transgendered pigs. Or maybe the McCain campaign's in dire need of another issue besides McCain's 100-year war. At any rate, the Republicons are once more showing their true colors and they ain't purdy. (This is all bad enough. We'll ignore the fact that McCain used the very same metaphor in a smear that did explicitly target a woman--Hillary.)

8 September 2008

Current Biology article

Sometimes scientists unearth bizarre findings. When faced with dots arranged like a moving person, both male and female subjects will tend to see male subjects moving towards them and female subjects moving away.

Ironic, ain't it?

As Juan Cole points out, it's a bit ironic that the Republican candidates for president are going on and on about the evils of government at the very moment that the U.S. government has been forced to take over mortgage giants in what will probably be the biggest bale out in history (a bale out made necessary by too little government regulation).

I had to do all I could to suppress a loud guffaw when I heard Palin say at the convention that Americans would have taken care of the people hit by Katrina if the government had simply gotten out of the way. Evidently, the government had stopped all the well-wishing business people from spending billions in rescue funds in order to help the lazy poor get out of New Orleans. (This was a Republican government hiring no-bid contractors to do this? Interesting...)

What can one say? Some people are so dang dense that they wouldn't know a fact if it hit them in the head. And a whole army of facts are waiting to hit all of us in the head if we don't get things right very soon.

5 September 2008

Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart is awesome.

4 September 2008

TV-free

Sarah Moskowitz has an interesting article on the people (like me) who abstain from TV. I actually watch movies on DVD so I'm not so sure I'm part of the truly TV-free crowd, but I do agree with the study's conclusions that there doesn't seem to be much of a downside--except perhaps feeling a bit out of the loop with people make references to the latest reality show.

2 September 2008

Giving the IQ-challenged a chance to lead

Unlike many bloggers, I have no problem with Palin's lack of experience. In a two-party system of kleptocrats and plutocrats, experience doesn't count for much. On the other hand, Palin's positions--and the fact that she could very well end up president--are scary.

She strongly supports abstinence-only sex education in schools (an odd position, since both she and her daughter got pregnant when young and unwed). She opposes abortion even in cases of rape, and as recently as 2006, supported teaching "creationism" in schools. Unlike the current president and virtually all scientists, she doesn't believe that global warming is caused by humans. And unlike those on the left and the Libertarians, she staunchly opposes the legalization of marijuana (once legal in Alaska).

Palin has linked the war to the quest for new energy supplies (some refreshing candor!), saying, "We are a nation at war and in many [ways] the reasons for war are fights over energy sources, which is nonsensical when you consider that domestically we have the supplies ready to go." The latter part of the statement is patently false and shows a complete unawareness of the fact that the U.S. has only a miniscule portion of the world's untapped oil supplies. If we elect her and McCain, it will prove once and for all that America does not discriminate against the IQ-challenged.